Lemonade

by Nneka Obidike Gerstle June 08, 2016

On the heel of her powerful, feather-­‐ruffling Super Bowl performance, Beyoncé debuted Lemonade, her visual album, to rave reviews from critics and audiences across the globe. The warm reception came as no surprise, since just about everything breathed from the mouth of Queen Bey turns to gold, as though she were Miss Midas and not Mrs. Carter.

The accolades awarded to the twelve-­‐track album are well deserved. The music and imagery, displayed in its complementary one-­‐hour film, are catchy, not in her usual twerk inducing pop style, but rather in a rich soulful depth that forces you to pay attention, rather than unceremoniously getting stuck in your head.

So what is the album about? There certainly are multiple contenders, marital strife being the chief. Perhaps it’s about that, but it is also about the (sometimes tragic) beauty of being a black woman.

Black is Beautiful,” this sentiment is loosely proclaimed; and yet it’s no secret that black women still vie for a place of acceptance in regards to the way we look and who we are. Yet this truth cannot be refuted and Lemonade could not be a greater endorsement.

Beginning with Beyoncé herself, fresh-­‐faced and natural, weave concealed under a turban. Devoid of all her usual ambiguous trimmings, she allows the audience to see her as she truly is. As do the assortment of women paraded throughout the film.


Photo Credit: © Parkwood Entertainment


Vibrant shapes and sizes. Heads adorned with afros, braids, cornrows and headdresses reminiscent of Queen Nefertiti. Faces covered in tribal markings. Bodies adorned in Ankara costumes.

Lemonade goes further by uniting an entourage of notable and influential faces, all whom have faced criticism, in one way or another related to their blackness. Tina Knowles Lawson and Blue Ivy; Beyoncé’s mother and daughter respectively. Chloe and Halle; her musical protégées. Serena Williams; six-­‐time Wimbledon winner.

Amandla Stenberg; actress and activist. Winnie Harlow; a model with vitiligo. Zendaya; singer and actress. Quvenzhané; the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Oscar award. Sybrina Fulton, Lesley McSpadden and Gwen Carr; mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner.

All black, all beautiful.

You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake.”

Beyoncé recites this quote from Warsan Shire’s For Women Who Are Difficult to Love, perfectly summing up the all too familiar pressure to be polite in public. In order to fit in. In order to be liked. So as not to be labeled angry.

But when she dares to own her truth and ask her question “are you cheating on me?”, suddenly the gloves come off.


Photo Credit: Tidal.com


She struts down the street, wild, blond locks blowing in the wind, mustard yellow dress, four-­‐inch heels, and a confident smirk. Fierce. She’s not concerned with who’s watching or what they think. She wields the baseball bat, smashing windows, leveling cars in her monster truck.

Yes in that moment she’s angry. However it’s righteous, it’s powerful; it’s an anger that draws you in as she claims recognition.

She is Hattie White, Margaret Ekpo, Dorothy Dandridge, Michaela DePrince, Alexa Canady, Oprah Winfrey, Winnie Mandela, Misty Copeland, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lupita Nyongo, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin.

She’s black and she’s beautiful.  She’s been given lemons and she’s making Lemonade.



Nneka Obidike Gerstle
Nneka Obidike Gerstle

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